GIVEN THE lopsided array of political forces in Montgomery County — registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3 to 1 — it’s no surprise that the real competition takes place in the Democratic primaries, while general elections are an afterthought. That’s certainly the case with the elections Tuesday for county executive, County Council and state’s attorney, which are little more than formal ratifications for the victorious Democratic candidates in June’s primaries.
It’s a pity that the Republican Party is so moribund in Montgomery, but it’s also undeniable: None of the GOP candidates on the ballot have raised much money or mounted a viable campaign. With one or two exceptions, they have only a passing familiarity with local issues, even though most of them have run repeatedly for office. Marginalized and ignored, most seem content to rail against high taxes rather than formulate workable ideas about local policy or governance.
It’s a lost opportunity. Although Montgomery County has many strengths — top-flight schools, AAA bond rating, terrific parks, libraries and communities — it would benefit from more diverse voices on the all-Democrat County Council. The council’s most effective advocate for spending restraint in recent years, Phil Andrews, is leaving after four terms; it’s unclear whether anyone can fill his shoes.
There is one Republican we endorse: Sheldon “Shelly” Skolnick, an at-large candidate for the council. Mr. Skolnick, a lawyer, has run repeatedly and unsuccessfully for public office; given his failure to raise money, the outcome this time is likely to be the same. Still, he has concrete ideas about promoting bus service to ease traffic and adding tolls to roads to generate funds for schools. By his presence alone, Mr. Skolnick, one of a vanishing breed of moderate Republicans, would bring badly needed diversity to the council. He’d make a capable replacement for Democrat Hans Riemer, a first-termer with modest achievements.
That’s not to say the Democrats on the ballot are inept. To the contrary, County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, whom we endorse for a third term, is a strategically deft politician who guided Montgomery through the Great Recession and its aftermath. At-large incumbents Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Marc Elrich are all solid. So are Craig Rice in District 2, the current council president, and Nancy Navarro in District 4. (The two first-time council candidates, Democrats Sidney A. Katz in District 3 and Tom Hucker in District 5, are unopposed, as is Roger Berliner, the incumbent in District 1.)
Also on the ballot in Montgomery is the election for state’s attorney, the county’s top prosecutor. Incumbent John McCarthy, a Democrat, should be a shoe-in for a third term.
Mr. McCarthy has been a standout, ably running the office, directing prosecutions and pioneering new approaches to fight domestic violence, gangs and truancy.
He is acutely aware of the county’s changing population; among the challenges he sees is protecting the county’s growing number of seniors and dealing with mental health issues that result in criminal acts. His Republican opponent, Dan Gaskill, is a criminal defense attorney who acknowledges that Mr. McCarthy has done a good job.